A clinical decision support needs assessment of community-based physicians

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To conduct a grounded needs assessment to elicit community-based physicians' current views on clinical decision support (CDS) and its desired capabilities that may assist future CDS design and development for community-based practices.

Materials and methods

To gain insight into community-based physicians' goals, environments, tasks, and desired support tools, we used a human–computer interaction model that was based in grounded theory. We conducted 30 recorded interviews with, and 25 observations of, primary care providers within 15 urban and rural community-based clinics across Oregon. Participants were members of three healthcare organizations with different commercial electronic health record systems. We used a grounded theory approach to analyze data and develop a user-centered definition of CDS and themes related to desired CDS functionalities.


Physicians viewed CDS as a set of software tools that provide alerts, prompts, and reference tools, but not tools to support patient management, clinical operations, or workflow, which they would like. They want CDS to enhance physician–patient relationships, redirect work among staff, and provide time-saving tools. Participants were generally dissatisfied with current CDS capabilities and overall electronic health record usability.


Physicians identified different aspects of decision-making in need of support: clinical decision-making such as medication administration and treatment, and cognitive decision-making that enhances relationships and interactions with patients and staff.


Physicians expressed a need for decision support that extended beyond their own current definitions. To meet this requirement, decision support tools must integrate functions that align time and resources in ways that assist providers in a broad range of decisions.

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